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  Behind the Scenes 

In the author's own words this page presents the story behind the book. Here is Jerry Kirkpatrick's comments about Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism.

Cover of Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism“My interest in education probably began in my sophomore year in high school. The biology teacher had assigned us an out-of-date classification system and said, ‘You just have to memorize it.’ I refused. At the bottom of my rather empty test page, I wrote, ‘What does this prove?’ The teacher replied, as he gave me a D, ‘That you didn't study very hard!’ Add to this that same year my boredom with geometry and the warning from my English teacher not to bring J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye back to school again, lest some other teacher confiscate it, and I began to think that something was wrong with education. Reading Ayn Rand the same year and attending a private school the next two convinced me that a free market in education was the only way to go.

“In subsequent years, in undergraduate and graduate schools, I spent much of my time daydreaming about what a free market in education would be like, concluding that I did not really know, except that it would be better than what I was enduring in those classrooms. In 1993 I began to think seriously about writing a book on free-market education. Because of my training in marketing and the need to publish works related to that field, I tentatively titled my project ‘Marketing the Idea of a Free Market in Education.’ As I began my research, I quickly realized that my undergraduate training in philosophy was driving me to the fundamental field of the philosophy of education. For several years, then, I read widely in history, the history and philosophy of education, and the history of educational thought. My surprise in this undertaking was John Dewey, for I had been taught that he was a villain in the history of both education and philosophy. As I state in the preface to Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism, Dewey, along with Montessori, turned out to be the culmination of developing ideas in the history of educational thought. And Dewey's metaphysics as Aristotelian and his theory of truth as correspondence further intrigued me.* For some time after that, the working title for my book became ‘Capitalism and Education,’ a takeoff on Dewey’s major educational work, Democracy and Education.

In 1997 I began writing. The first chapter went smoothly, but then I hit a wall, suffering two or three false starts, on the second, historical chapter. At one point, I flamboyantly titled either the chapter itself or a section The One-Thousand-Year Experiment in Free-Market Education, referring to the period in Greco-Roman history from about the fifth century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. in which education was primarily the function of private, entrepreneurial teachers, not the state or church. As I say in the finished work, however, that notion is anachronistic, because capitalism did not come into existence until much later. After several attempts, I concluded that I was not a historian and finally wrote the historical chapter in its present form, using such terms as sketch and outline to describe it. The remaining chapters of the book followed—not quickly, but—relatively smoothly, with the manuscript completed in July of 2004. At one point I changed the working title to The Theory of Concentrated Attention and Independent Judgment, the name of the theory presented in the book. My wife, Linda Reardan, came up with the final title.

For the next couple of years, the work was submitted to and rejected by fifteen or so commercial publishers and university presses. One university press did send the manuscript out for peer review, to one conservative and one liberal who each hated the work for opposite reasons. The editor chose not to support the book and I withdrew it from further consideration. An editor from a commercial press expressed interest, but whenever I asked if he or one of his assistants had read the manuscript, I repeatedly got an in a couple of weeks reply. After about three months of this, I went elsewhere. The elsewhere happened to be another division of the same press. This editor offered me a contract that stated that I had to provide my own copy editing and typesetting, that I would not be paid any royalties on the first five hundred copies, and, as is standard in publishing contracts, that I had to sign away all rights. This was in November of 2006. I was in the middle of gaining experience publishing the paperback edition of In Defense of Advertising. I thought briefly about what the editor was offering me and summarily walked away from the contract. Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism was published by TLJ Books in February 2008.”

* My initial knowledge of Dewey came from private lectures. My opinion of him, as a result, was so negative that I told my wife, "I don't know how I am going to be able to read Dewey for this project." I started by reading a summary of Dewey's work in a history of philosophy and noticed that the historians interpretation of Dewey differed considerably from that of the lecturer I had initially learned from. Then I read the entry about Dewey in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy and noticed that its interpretation differed from both the historian and lecturer. Then, I read Dewey, and noticed that he did not at all sound like what the previous three commentators had said. I proceeded to read Dewey with considerable enjoyment—not agreeing with everything he said, to be sure—but with the enjoyment of discovering the thoughts of a brilliant mind. In fact, my pleasure of reading Dewey follows only that of, first, discovering the mind of Ayn Rand and, second, that of Ludwig von Mises.”

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